Capt. Gary Ellis, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Suicide Prevention Program manager, stands in front of the Celebrate Life poster in the Wright-Patterson Medical Center Mental Health Clinic. The Suicide Prevention Program is an element of the Individual Delivery System, or IDS, which is a collaboration of base helping agencies that provide care to Airmen and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Trimble)

Suicide Prevention Program coordinates with other helping agencies

Suicide is a sensitive topic. It is also the leading cause of death among active-duty service members. The Air Force’s newly redesigned Individual Delivery System, or IDS, aims to take a proactive role in preventing crisis situations, including suicide, by encouraging helping agencies to establish a prevention-based focus.

“Suicide prevention isn’t just my role,” said Capt. Gary Ellis, Suicide Prevention Program manager. “As an Airman, it is all of our roles to talk about it, and I work in collaboration with a multitude of organizations and agencies throughout the base to help prevent suicide.”

An element of the Mental Health Clinic, the Suicide Prevention Program works with other IDS offices and mental health professionals to evaluate the installation climate, track data and plan effective outreach programs for Airmen and their families.

“When people think of resiliency, or anything related to mental health, they automatically think of the Mental Health Clinic,” said Ellis. “And one of the things we make sure to do as a clinic is to leave our clinic and actually get out and engage with Airmen in their work spaces so the first time they see us is not when they show up to our clinic in distress.”

The IDS agencies focus on collaboration by working together and sharing data in order to identify trends that affect Airmen and their families. This collaboration allows agencies to share information among themselves to develop effective outreach programs for base personnel.

“We absolutely track trends,” said Ellis. “Whenever there is a suicide-related event, whether attempt or completion, we track that data so we can identify how we can better assist the member and the unit to prevent future occurrences.”

The Suicide Prevention Program manager also serves as an advisor to commanders and leadership teams at every level, helping them understand how to develop effective work environments that promote balanced and healthy lifestyles.

“When it comes to stress management, the data shows that social support is a huge factor, and spending time with friends, getting out of the house and talking about the stress you are facing is a great way to mitigate stress,” said Ellis. “We encourage people to use their existing resources to deal with stress, like exercise, spirituality and living a balanced life. A lot of folks have difficulty managing and balancing their work life with their personal life, and we can offer guidance as to how to best go about that.”

The data also shows how important relationships are to managing on and off-duty time.

“The best form of suicide prevention is building relationships,” said Ellis. “Getting to know each other allows you to be comfortable being direct and asking the tough question.”

Not only is help available in-person through multiple IDS agencies on the installation, there are also national hotlines where you can talk or text with a mental health professional for those individuals who may be uncomfortable speaking to someone in person.

“If you aren’t interested or you’re concerned about having this conversation with someone, you can actually text or call, and someone will reach out to you,” said Ellis. “There are a number of resources available to you, and if you don’t know what those resources are, that’s what the Suicide Prevention Program manager is here for.”

For more information on the Suicide Prevention Program, contact Ellis through the Mental Health Clinic phone line at 937-257-6876.

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